Don't panic - we are actually not addicted to our smartphones
New study shows it is human interaction that is addictive
We’re not addicted to smartphones.
Rather we’re hooked on the desire to be liked and it stems from our cultural fix for validation.
A new international study has found that mobile device habits may not be anti-social but rather hyper-social – stemming from a healthy need for social interaction.
“There is a lot of panic surrounding this topic. We are trying to offer some good news and show that it is our desire for human interaction that is addictive – and there are fairly simple solutions to deal with this,” said Professor Samuel Veissière of McGill University in Canada.
“We all know people who, seemingly incapable of living without the bright screen of their phone for more than a few minutes, are constantly texting and checking out what friends are up to on social media.“These are examples of what many consider to be the anti-social behaviour brought on by smartphone addiction, a phenomenon that has garnered media attention in the past few months and led investors and consumers to demand that tech giants address this problem,” said Veissière.
According to the SA Social Media Landscape 2018 conducted by Ornico and World Wide Worx, Facebook is being used by 29% of South Africans.
Facebook users increased by 14% since 2016, from 14 million to 16 million. Of these, 14 million were accessing the social network on mobile devices.
Veissière explained that the desire to watch and monitor others – but also to be seen and monitored by others – “runs deep in our evolutionary past”.
“Humans evolved to be uniquely social species and require constant input from others to seek a guide for culturally appropriate behaviour. This is also a way for them to find meaning, goals and a sense of identity.”
While smartphones harness a “normal and healthy” need for sociality, he agrees that the pace and scale of hyper-connectivity pushes the brain’s reward system to run on overdrive, “which can lead to unhealthy addictions”.
Johannesburg psychologist Dr Ingrid Artus surmises that “social media addicts feed a deep-rooted need for approval in this vicarious fashion.
“Each form of positive feedback received on social media platforms, such as ‘likes’ or friendship acceptances, activates the reward system in the brain, in the same way that other addictive behaviours or substances would,” Artus said.
The solution, suggest the experts, is to turn off push notifications and set up appropriate times to check your phone.
“This can go a long way to regain control over smartphone addiction,” said Veissière.